On a sunny day in July, Mona Gagnon, 54, sat at a table in her home writing in a workbook provided by Literacy Volunteers Waterville Area. She focused on an exercise asking her to separate words into syllables and then rewrite them.

Howard Gagnon, her husband, leaned over and waited for her to sound out the words.

Mona moved her lips and ran her finger under the word as she looked for ways to break it down.

“Thanks … thanks … thanksgiv … Thanksgiving,” she said, looking up at Howard, 56, before writing the word down.

Three and a half years ago, Mona lost her memory after her medication was increased by one pill, according to Howard.

About a year ago, one of Mona’s friends suggested she go to Literacy Volunteers. Now she’s up to a first-grade reading level, Howard said.

The nonprofit relies almost entirely on volunteers to provide adults and families free instruction in reading and writing.

In recent years, the student count for Literacy Volunteers Waterville Area has been rising. In 2015, 25 students were helped. That number jumped to 37 in 2016. By July 2017, the agency had already helped 24 students.

Eleven board members and 35 tutors keep the organization running along with office manager Danielle Boutin, who works out of an office provided by the United Way of Mid-Maine.

The nonprofit sustained itself through grants until this past year, when representatives went to four towns to ask for municipal donations, receiving $2,500.

Once per week, Mona meets with a tutor from the Literacy Volunteers, and twice a week she works with Howard, who took a course to be a certified tutor.

Literacy Volunteers provides a one-on-one program, where an adult works individually with a tutor to gain literacy skills, and a family literacy program, where tutors teach parents how to read to their children and help with schoolwork.

In Maine in 1992, 13 percent of adults lacked basic literary skills, which was halved to 7 percent – or more than 91,000 people – by 2003, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. The numbers are the same for Kennebec County.